”En Afrique, on est très riche dans la tête and dans le corpse.”
– Oumou Sangare
These are these wordings of Malian born songstress, Oumou Sangare about the sublime riches of the African continent.
Perhaps this might be the reason why the continent has its own fair share of musical talents like Sangare.
Popularly known as the African Diva, Sangare shot to prominence in 1990 with her song, ‘Moussolou’ that became an instant hit in West Africa.
Moussolou sold a staggering 250,000 official copies.
The main themes that permeate Sangare’s song include the plight of the modern West African woman.
Through her songs, the gifted talent, who has been in music for over 20 years explore the delimma between marital life and personal freedom which is a major concern especially in the dominantly Muslim country Mali.
Western listeners who can’t understand the lyrics will be drawn in by her mellifluous vocals and smooth, circular compositions, which use full arrangements without sounding over-produced.
Both traditional instruments and electric guitars/basses are successfully blended without getting in each other’s way.
Perhaps thanks to her fight for the poor and down trodden, the queen of Moussolou was made the goodwill ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Organization headquartered in Rome, Italy
Oumou Sangare who enjoys a rich and diverse discography is also famous for having composed the anthem of the 2002 Africa Cup of Nations that was hosted by Mali and won by the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon.
This iconic figure of the Malian and African music is one of the few artists of the African continent to have performed on the biggest world stages like the Opera of Sydney, Central Park, Roskilde festival, festival of Essaouira, Opera de La Monnaie of Brussels, Queen Elisabeth Hall London, and all major festivals in The Netherlands.
In February 1989 Oumou Sangare, a twenty one year old singer from Bamako, Mali, travelled to the JBZ studio in Abidjan, Ivory Coast to record her debut cassette.
“In Africa we have a tendency to forget the past. We have to remember where we came from.
We need to approach our origins through the music. Africa is rich. People think it’s poor, but it’s not so.
It is in your head and in your culture, c’est la richesse. And when you are rich you can succeed; you can progress and advance things.” Sangare writes on her social media pages.
Her musical inspiration comes from the African woman. “The spirit of woman,” as she put it.
She recounted that she was touched by her own hard upbringing filled with suffering, and that has inspired her in her life.
“The plight of women drives what I do,” she says. I struggle for the rights of women.”
Sangaré says that the mentality in Africa has changed in the last 20 years, so that it is no longer frowned upon for a woman to work or do something with her life.
“African women have enough intelligence to work with and not just rely on our men to support us.”
She has denounced arranged marriage. “My point is to allow the woman to make her choice and her life is her responsibility. Let the girls make their choice. Don’t force them into something that may not work and leaves them abandoned.”